This past Monday night, I spoke to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. Besides this national committee, in the room were leaders of our national Southern Baptist entities and state conventions and members of the media. You can read an edited version of my address by Baptist Press. In this address, I stated:
While I am passionate about the Cooperative Program, I also recognize that we are in a “funding crisis” as a denomination. We have a divide that is growing over this issue and I recognize this. As your President, I will not put my head in the sand as though it is not existent or hope it will go away.
You see, we have a funding crisis, not only because we are not growing in our giving through the Cooperative Program; but we have a funding crisis that brings a deeper threat financially. I identified it here when I stated,
No longer are churches going to be loyal because they are asked to be, but they are asking us hard questions that cannot be ignored. I believe we have a funding crisis not only in dollars, but also in philosophy.
Yes, I do believe this is real. I have heard it with my own ears and it is apparent our churches need a renewed passion toward giving through the Cooperative Program. This passion may not occur until we provide some real and acceptable solutions to their concerns.
Our Challenges are Real
I think it is imperative for us to see a positive and forward-looking perspective as we enter into this challenging territory. I shared such a perspective in last Monday’s article. As you review this, you will learn of my deep commitment and passion for the Cooperative Program. Our church is financially committed to our future in the Southern Baptist Convention. Please join us.
Yet, I have a deep conviction to do all I can to bring our leaders together and work through these differences toward a common goal. As I stated last Monday night, we cannot let this simmer into a boiling division. Our challenges are real.
Just recently in a meeting with many Southern Baptist leaders, I heard Dr. Jimmy Draper, former President of LifeWay Christian Resources and pastor, speak about this issue. Before I tell you what he said, I want to make clear that when Dr. Draper was a pastor, his church was one of the greatest contributors through the Cooperative Program. Dr. Draper recently stated,
Distrust and disunity abound instead of prayer and concern for each other. We often delight in the failures of those who disagree with us. Conflict is the best description for churches. Complacency is a close second. Cooperation is present but it’s not maximized. The independent spirit of, “I can do it myself” is okay for a two year old; it’s not really good for mature Christians. The Cooperative Program has to be revised, restarted, reinvented or something to make it once again a passion for our churches. And we need to be reminded that the Cooperative Program funds do not belong to the denomination. They’re not state convention funds. They’re not Southern Baptist funds, they’re local church funds. And we hold them in trust. – Dr. Jimmy Draper
I believe those words are profound and worthy for all Southern Baptists to review and take to heart immediately. They speak to our fellowship, our spirit, our funding, and our stewardship as a denomination.
Dr. Draper is seventy-nine years old, and while a major believer in the Cooperative Program, he realizes we are in a new season regarding its future effectiveness. Why? I believe he identified it in these points:
- Our fellowship with one another must be under the Lordship of Jesus, resulting in trust, harmony, and love.
- Our cooperation is at a childish level rather than functioning in maturity.
- Our churches must be convinced again that the Cooperative Program is more than worthy of the greatest manner of support for the work of the Great Commission being fulfilled globally.
- Our denomination must always remember that we are here to serve the churches, honoring the churches’ greatest desire to take the gospel around the world globally.
Identifying the Challenges
I want to take the plunge of identifying some of our present challenges related to the Cooperative Program. I will go straight to the point on each of them. I will only highlight five of these challenges, even though I realize there are a few others.
Challenge #1:How will we lead our church members to begin to give at least one-tenth of their income to their local church weekly? The more money our people give, the more our churches will be able to give away.
Challenge #2:How much should our churches give through the Cooperative Program annually? While we know this will be different for each church depending on several variables, our churches must face the reality that the more monies they give through the Cooperative Program, the more we can do as a convention of churches to take the gospel to the world globally.
Challenge #3:How much should our state conventions utilize in the state for their Great Commission work and how much should they forward through the work of our Southern Baptist Convention churches nationally and internationally? This is a major issue that cannot be ignored or denied by anyone. As a point of clarity, some of our states invest in work across North America and the world, involving their states in mission partnerships. While many believe the magical amount is to utilize 50% in the state and forward the remaining 50% to the Southern Baptist Convention, this is met with various perspectives within each state. What I do know is that each state convention needs to wrestle with this challenge and do all they can to honor the wishes of their churches, as well as exercise their highest commitment of stewardship.
I believe the words of Dr. Tim Lubinus, Executive Director and Treasurer of the Baptist Convention of Iowa, presented a mighty challenge to all of us in a recent article. He is leading his state convention to a 50-50 commitment, beginning this fall. In 2013, we know our churches gave $482,370,167 to the Cooperative Program through our states. $188,001,275 ended up in our national Cooperative Program. Therefore, the states utilized $295,000,000for their Great Commission work within our states.
Challenge #4: How should the dollars received at the national level be allocated between our entities? This is not discussed often, other than a great desire to see as much monies as possible go to our International Mission Board. Due to the actions of the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention in adopting the motions of our Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, we are now in the process of moving 51% of all monies received to the International Mission Board. This is the first time ever in our history this has occurred.
Challenge #5: How can we increase our pace of fulfilling the Great Commission globally? Southern Baptists must find a way to get more monies to our International Mission Board. We must find a way to increase our number of missionaries and find a way to push back on the growing lostness around the world. This is what our churches want and somehow we must find a way to get the job done without jeopardizing our commitment to cooperation at all levels.
We need to stay together as we work through these questions and more. We must find a way to get the job done. It is not a singular issue, but one that is complex. Surely we can find a way soon to come together and move through these challenges for the sake of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
We really have no other choice.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
Dr. Ronnie Floyd is currently serving as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.7 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide.
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